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Smell of death sends Filipinos in Haiti back home

First Posted 19:49:00 01/30/2010

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MANILA, Philippines?The smell of rotting corpses spreading in the air like a sign of a massive epidemic in Haiti drove at least 64 Filipino survivors to go back to the Philippines.

Badette Villagracia, an industrial engineer for electronics company Manutech Inc. for over 10 years now, decided to go home to protect her one-year-old son Raymond.

With three other Filipino survivors, Villagracia and her son arrived at dawn Saturday aboard a Philippine Airlines flight with high hopes that she could still fly back to Haiti. They were the second batch of Filipinos repatriated by the Philippine government.

?If not for my son, I wouldn?t leave because I have a stable job there and the people there certainly need help,? Villagracia said.

Villagracia described the situation in Haiti two weeks after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake as ?equally catastrophic with lack of food, shelter and order.?

She was planning to go back to Haiti to continue her work and lend a hand to those who need help after a month in the Philippines.

?I don?t want to stay here for long sitting pretty when everybody in Haiti is suffering,? she said, adding her family was lucky they were able to survive the ?killer earthquake? unscathed. Even their concrete house bore no damage.

Enrico Fos, executive director of the Office of Undersecretary for Migrants and Workers Affairs, said Villagracia perfectly articulated most OFWs' common sentiments.

Out of the 300 Filipinos in Haiti, only 70 have applied for repatriation. Six of them backed out at the last minute.

Fos said many OFWs in Haiti are hesitant to leave Haiti.

?This is because most of them were living in the country for a very long time, having stable jobs and owning houses. And most of them wanted to help,? Fos said.

But those who have young children opted not to risk their safety, he added.

According to Fos, there are two established and closely-knit Filipino communities in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and all of the Filipino expatriates are helping each other to restore normalcy to their lives after the earthquake.

He said some 80 percent of the OFWs are holding supervisory and managerial positions in industries such as tourism, garments, electronics and supermarkets.

Victor Torrizo, an auto mechanic, said the foul smell of dead bodies gave him the impression that his family?s health?especially that of his two children Viccina, 10, and Allen Vincent, 6?was in danger.

?The foul smell has been lingering for weeks because bodies still trapped in the rubble have yet to be retrieved. Only the rich have found their loved ones,? Torrizo said in Filipino.

Asked if they still want to live in Haiti, Viccina and Allen Vincent, who were both wearing rosaries around their necks, shook their head.

Torrizo said the two children will continue their studies in Calauan, Laguna, where his family lives.

Torrizo would like to go back to Haiti after a few months for his wife who is currently working as quality assurance manager.

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